For 18 long years, the 6-foot tall, tattooed man with cold gray eyes acted as a single-man crime wave. This cold blooded killer , lived with more than a dozen aliases. No one knew anything about him while he lived, no one came close to guessing that all the hundreds of heinous acts were done by a single man until the November of He left his musings with his only known friend Henry Lesser, a 26 year-old jail guard. But how did Carl come to be? He was raised with five other siblings by his parents John and Matilda Panzram who were immigrants from Germany.
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Note: Other Information: Please note that only photocopies are available for research. Permission must be granted by the Head of Special Collections to view the original documents. Around this time, Panzram began working in the fields of the family farm and was often beaten if he made mistakes. When he robbed a neighbor at age eleven, he was sent to the Minnesota State Training School where he was beaten and sexually abused. This experience was the first of many at various reform schools, jails, and prisons.
He left home at age thirteen or fourteen and rode trains all over the Northwest. He was eventually caught for larceny and sent to the Montana State Reform School in Upon his release, Panzram joined the military, but was imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for violation of the 62 nd Article of War. After serving a three-year sentence, Panzram continued to wander until he found work as a railroad guard and strikebreaker.
When he returned to the United States, Panzram resumed his life of crime and did prison stints in Oregon and Montana. Whitney of the Grace Line, which sailed to Panama. From there he travelled to Peru where he worked in the copper mines, then to Chile and back to Panama. In , he sailed for Scotland, where he also spent time in jail. After travelling around Europe, he returned to the United States. After wrecking the yacht, Panzram returned to Europe and from there, proceeded to Africa.
In , Panzram was charged with burglary in Washington, D. There, he met Henry Lesser, a prison guard who took pity on him after a beating. Shortly thereafter, Panzram began writing a few pages at time and gave them to Lesser in increments. Although Panzram was later transferred to Leavenworth Prison in Kansas to serve a twenty-five year sentence, he continued to correspond with Lesser. In , Panzram beat a civilian foreman to death in the laundry of the Leavenworth prison.
As a result, he was tried and condemned to death by hanging. Famed psychologist Karl Menninger assessed Panzram and determined that he was indeed of sound mind when he committed the murder, and therefore the sentence should not be overturned. On September 5, Carl Panzram was hung by the neck. He justified his crimes by claiming he was only doing to others what had been done to him. Although Panzram often boasted of killing twenty-three people, committing thousands of robberies and larcenies, and sodomizing a thousand men, his prison records indicate that he was only ever jailed for acts of burglary and larceny with the exception of the murder at Leavenworth Prison.
In , Lesser spoke again at Scripps Cottage and donated the Panzram autobiography, including the Panzram correspondence and related documentation, to San Diego State University. Administrative Information , Conditions Governing Use: The copyright interests in some of these materials have been transferred to or belong to San Diego State University. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections means that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine.
Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. When granted, permission is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder s , which must also be obtained in order to publish.
Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. When referencing this collection, Henry Lesser must be cited as the donor. Please see the preferred citation below.
Conditions Governing Access: This collection is open for research. Please note that only photocopies are available for research. The collection was donated by Henry Lesser. Mencken and Sheldon Guleck.
Warnke, as well as correspondence between psychologist Karl Menninger and prison warden T. The collection is arranged chronologically. He often theatrically describes a crime or event, and then provides the reader with information on how to verify its authenticity. You taught me how to live my life and I have lived as you taught me. Once Lesser received the pages, his wife typed transcripts of them and organized the work into three parts with several sections. Lesser then went back over the transcript, making various annotations and notes on the pages, often citing if he had verified a particular event or crime described by Panzram.
The collection contains photocopies of these transcripts. Other highlights include correspondence between Lesser and Panzram in which Panzram describes daily prison life, trinkets he made in prison, inventions he had devised, his feelings on prison and his crimes, and more.
In one letter, Panzram casually mentions that he killed his boss in the prison laundry. Also included are letters that Panzram wrote to the Society for the Abolishment of Capital Punishment and President Herbert Hoover urging them not to ask the government to repeal his sentence because he was sane when he committed his crimes. Please note that while portions of this collection have been digitized click on the Virtual Folder icons , some materials remain unavailable online due to copyright restrictions.
Detailed List of Contents.
Guide to the Carl Panzram Papers
Note: Other Information: Please note that only photocopies are available for research. Permission must be granted by the Head of Special Collections to view the original documents. Around this time, Panzram began working in the fields of the family farm and was often beaten if he made mistakes. When he robbed a neighbor at age eleven, he was sent to the Minnesota State Training School where he was beaten and sexually abused. This experience was the first of many at various reform schools, jails, and prisons. He left home at age thirteen or fourteen and rode trains all over the Northwest.
Carl Panzram (You won’t believe how much he hated humanity)
Carl Panzram felt odd from a young age: by the age of five or six he was a liar and thief and claimed to become meaner the older he grew. In , he was arrested and jailed for being drunk and incorrigible. While there, he was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and raped by staff members in what attendees dubbed "the paint shop", because children would leave "painted" with bruises and blood. He ran away from home at the age of 14, a couple of weeks after his parole and merely two weeks after attempting to kill a Lutheran cleric with a revolver, to become a hobo. He often traveled via train cars. He later claimed that he was once gang raped by a group of hobos aboard a train. Early crimes[ edit ] Panzram claimed that after escaping from a Montana State Reform School—along with an inmate named Jimmie Benson—both were involved in a string of burglaries, robberies, and arsons throughout the Midwest until they split up.